GREENSBORO, NC – Your DNA can tell you all kinds of things:
your past, who you're related to and what your ancestry is,
it can predict your future and tell you if you're at risk for certain diseases.
But can science use DNA to tell you what kind of diet or exercise will work for you? I was hoping so and I dragged co-worker Chad Silber into my web.
I ordered a kit that claimed it would tell me what exercise would work for me better than another, what types of foods I should stay away from. Basically, I was hoping to take the guess work out of weight loss and health. I wanted to be told: eat this, not that.
So, we spit and we spit (and spit some more. It’s crazy how you can’t work up enough saliva especially when you follow the directions of not eating or drinking the 30 minutes before!).
And then we waited, for at least 7 weeks to see how our DNA would tell us the best way to lose weight, should we stay away from certain foods and what the magic combination of exercise would be.
“I metabolize coffee fast.”
“Now the whole world makes sense, because you drink like 10 cups a day,” says Chad. “I do it slow. I only drink one caffeinated drink a week. It's all I can take. “
Chad's results show he is more likely to gain weight with sugary drinks; I'm less. Neither one of us is likely to have a lactose or gluten intolerance. And while his genes indicate he's more likely to reduce his risk of obesity with exercise; mine says less likely.
Hmmmm. I took the findings to Dr. Joseph Skelton, who heads up Brenner FIT for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“The magic would be to do a test and find out eat this not that --do this not that and it gives you the answer.”
But does it? Wouldn't that make life easier? Sigh.
“Your genetic test said exercise won't likely reduce your possibility for obesity, I could have told you that for a cup of coffee.”
Hmmm and speaking of that coffee. Can I write off all the coffee I buy as a medical necessity since I metabolize caffeine faster?
“What does that mean in the big picture? Probably not much. What it would mean, what if you didn't drink coffee all day? You'd probably be fine. We have a saying: Genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.”
Fine. But does this test at least tell me which of the millions of diets or exercise regiments would work for my body instead of having to try and fail and try again?
“I don't think so. I think some time in the future we'll have that. Overall we kinda know what to do. What we need to eat. The hard part is...how do we do it day in and day out. And I think that's where a lot of our energy should go and I don't think a genetic test can tell you that.”
Not yet anyway. So until then? You go back to the basics. Seriously. Dr. Skelton says do the basics first and that includes: eating three meals a day, eating a balanced plate where you have a protein, grains fruits and vegetables, not drinking a lot of our calories, getting a full night’s sleep, and managing stress.
Also, Dr. Skelton says, exercise alone won’t help you lose weight. “Exercise is fantastic, to be healthy, you need to exercise. Think of exercise now as being a medicine. It can lower blood pressure it can help with mild depression. it helps you keep weight off if you've lost weight, you're not going to keep it off without exercise. but to actually lose weight, we've known for about the past 5 years, through clinical research, exercise alone is not a good way to burn fat and calories. It's a great way to keep weight off and it's good for you.”
And what about those supplements and those things? Should we be paying more attention to those? Dr. Skelton says, “it's almost like the gas you put in your car. You want your car to last long, so maybe you pay extra money to get the high-test gas. What we know...is what makes your car last and run is how you take care of it. Do you take it in for regular service? Do you have the oil changed? That's gonna play in way more than what type of gas you put in it.”
Dr. Skelton's secret? It's not one. He says go to myplate.gov and it can help you eat balanced.
So that means, do the regular maintenance of your body. Eat right. It’s that simple. So, why is it so hard?